Tangy Taiwanese treats
By Nico Erle Ciriaco
Entrepreneurial couple Peter & Annabelle Chua brought Lugang to the Philippines. They traveled to Shanghai in 2008 to watch the Master’s Tennis Cup tourney. While sampling the locale’s eclectic cuisine, the Bellagio Café (the franchise’s trade name in mainland China) was highly recommended by a friend. It was, as a movie title suggests, love at first bite.
During their stay in Shanghai, they kept on coming back. Eventually, they decided to bring the restaurant with them to Manila, hoping to share the exquisite dining experience they had with the rest of the metro’s gourmands.
The Chua couple was committed to the idea of bringing authentic, delicious Taiwanese cuisine to the country, by building a group of restaurants around the metropolis run by specialists and experts from various fields, all working together to deliver a unique, world-class service that can’t be found anywhere else.
“We offer the best Taiwanese cuisine but we, too, have most of the all-time Chinese dishes. We also serve Cantonese fare. There’s no distinct Taiwanese taste, so to speak; it’s a mix of all the mainland flavors, a medley of many cuisines,” intimated daughter Katrina Chua, who is as busy as her parents in doing hands-on job for the venture. She handles the dining operations side of the business.
Guests can feast on Steamed Pork or Chicken Xiao Long Bao, Abalone Mushroom and Jelly Fish, Black Pepper premium Beef Ribs, Dong-Bo Pork Belly with Steamed Buns, Mayonnaise Prawns, Steamed Scallops with Garlic Vermicelli, and Pumpkin Seafood Rice Souffle. The dishes are characterized by sweet and spicy tastes, with the subtle use of ginger lingering as an aftertaste.
“Other must-tries include Scallion Chicken and Stir-fried Beef with Chili Peppers. Our menu is a collaboration and consultation from the mother company in China. This is our third time to change the menu cycle in two years, adding new items. We import a lot of things so dishes come out authentic. Always have room for dessert. We have an extensive selection having an altogether separate menu.”
For sweet endings, choose between Milk Custard with Fresh Fruit or Mango Balls on Glutinous Rice Wrap with Coconut Flakes. However, you can have both if you have no dietary restrictions. Lugang boasts of their trademark desserts that have made them famous. On hot summer days, nothing beats the refreshing taste of assorted fruit-flavored shaved ice and smoothies. Their piece-de-resistance is the Bellagio Freeze, a towering sculpture of shaved ice, slathered with condensed milk then smothered with red & green mung beans, taro, tapioca balls and candied pineapple. Definitely for sharing!
Each and every dish is made with the freshest ingredients – an essential to achieve perfection in taste. Lugang also aims to introduce new and innovative materials, details and design with each of their food outlets; believing that it is important for each branch to have a fresh and distinct look yet, at the same time, remain true to the original idea of Lugang Café at its core.“The Mall of Asia branch is predominantly black-and-whitewith splashes of gold. Our interiors always use lush colors. Here in Greenhills, there’s the dragon with lots of metals and modern lighting. Artist Patrick Frias has done a splendid job with our wall murals using the airbrush technique. Our interiors and ambiance make us stand out!”
A ‘Parian-scene’ wall mural gives off a “dated café feel.” Interior details differ from floor to floor. Furnishings in the smaller-sized floors are used to make the restaurant warmer and cozier; more intimate.
In keeping with the tradition, the restaurant interiors are very contemporary with all three signature elements – metal, fire (lighting) and earth (floral arrangements) – visible all throughout its floors. The high ceilings, large glass windows, comfortable sofa settees, and fresh-cut bouquets that seem to float in glass panels, are all accentuated by bright yet warm illumination. Overhead consoles play the latest music to blend with the highly modern ambiance.
Lugang Café believes that its greatest assets are the professionals in its employ – from the chefs who flew in from China and Taiwan that bring a unique authenticity to the dishes, down to the food servers who have gone through rigorous training in order to address every diner’s needs.
“Our clientele base covers a wide range. On weekdays, we cater to professionals and groups of ‘ladies of leisure’ who enjoy our food and the coziness of our interiors. On weekends, we have droves of families who don’t mind the occasional queues. We also cater to our kiddie guests with our high chairs in hand and our kid-friendly select menu,” shared Katrina.
A unique dining experience is only the beginning of what Lugang Café has to offer. A member of the Bellagio Group of Restaurants (Shanghai and Beijing), the Manila branch is the very first store outside of China. The brand has scheduled openings in Macau, Indonesia and Singapore within the year. Visit any of its branches located at the Mall of Asia, Connecticut St. – Greenhills, The Block (SM North Edsa), and soon at The Fort and SM Megamall. For more information and/or reservations, simply call tel no. 775-7599 and mobile # 0917-6992254 or email email@example.com.